On September 28, 2023, actor Michael Gambon passed away following a bout of pneumonia at 82. An accomplished actor on the stage and screen, Gambon starred in multiple cinematic and TV successes dating back to the 1960s. From Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing to Paris By Night or his Olivier Award-nominated performance in Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge at the National Theatre, Gambon’s career is impressive to say the least. Yet, his most notable role regarding his later years is undoubtedly his take on Albus Dumbledore in six Harry Potter installments.
Gambon brought a commanding and authoritative presence to Dumbledore without sacrificing vulnerability and compassion. He dished words of wisdom with a playful and mysterious enigmatic disposition, making him one of the film’s most memorable and beloved characters. He transitioned from calm to fierce, from placid to protective, with seamless nuance. So, rather than “pity the dead,” as Dumbledore himself would say, let’s take this somber time to celebrate what Gambon accomplished as the wise wizard via a recollection of his most impactful and insightful quotes in the ‘Harry Potter’ series.
Note: Some quotes may be exclusive to the books, as they are too memorable to exclude. Yet, it proves easy to picture Gambon’s delivery of such nonetheless.
“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”
While an age-old adage may suggest that “sticks and stones can break bones” but “words will never hurt,” it is one of the most foolish oft-quoted aphorisms. Words have the power to inspire. They have the power to diminish. They can heal or they can destroy. We, as humans, are lucky enough to possess the gift of language, so we should use it wisely. Dumbledore, despite knowing how much magic he holds in his hands, is also fully aware that sometimes, battles are better fought with the pen than the wand.
Of course it’s happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it’s not real?
While the context at play here involves Harry Potter seeing a very deceased Dumbledore, the words can be applied to much broader scenarios regarding emotional well-being and mental health. Thoughts are real. Feelings are powerful. Just because something is not tangible, does not mean it doesn’t hold weight. Your fears and aspirations, your doubts and determinations, are just as real as the objects that lay before you.
“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
Beautiful in its utter simplicity, this Dumbledore quote is there to remind us that doom and gloom need not conquer our lives if we remember to take a look at the light that surrounds us. If we remember to step into the sun, or turn the switch — to breathe in the joys that can exist alongside misery — bad times do not have to be all bad.
“Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth.”
With age comes wisdom, yes, but do not forget that the young — often unjaded by life’s turmoil — possess an undaunted degree of determination. A fighter instinct that can change the course of history. It’s often young minds that influence culture. Young minds change the future. Forget that and you will reap the consequences.
“We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”
Ahh, this old nugget. Rather self-explanatory, this Dumbledore quote is there to remind us that the right path is often the one less traveled. It is often the one laden with obstacles at every step of the way. Taking the easy way out may be compelling, but will it leave you feeling fulfilled? Will it leave you feeling morally satisfied?
“Do not pity the dead, Harry, pity the living, and above all those who live without love.”
To pity the dead is to spend energy on those whom you are no longer able to console — who you are no longer able to support and inspire. Yet, to pity the living is to focus that effort on those whom you can influence. And, as for those who live without love, they are the most worthy of your compassion, for they go through life without ever knowing the most powerful emotion.
“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”
To fight alone is to foolishly stand isolated against a threat when loved ones will stand beside you. It is a hero’s ruin to dish aside fellow soldiers. Family and friends are stronger as a team. Do not push away community; embrace it.
“Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.”
Hatred is powerful. Though a negative emotion, it catalyzes action. It leads to consequences. On the other hand, apathy is so empty of drive — good or bad — that it results in stagnancy. Indifference does damage for, in the utter absence of concern, we allow the world around us to crumble.
“You fail to recognize that it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be!”
Who we become is what matters. How we choose to live our lives should be our legacy. The family you are born into. The dastardly parents you may have. The ignorant society that may surround you. We should judge not by such circumstances but by individual action. We cannot control our birth — we cannot control what we are born into — but we can control what we choose to become.